When Kirk Cousins stepped up to the podium last week, he was ready to make a statement. Cousins didn’t say much during his press conference on Thursday but he made sure to let everyone know that he was willing to do “whatever it takes” to help the Minnesota Vikings win this season.
A high-risk, close contact to Kellen Mond after he tested positive for COVID-19, Cousins was forced to miss five days of practice as an unvaccinated player. Despite the situation Cousins said he would “be vigilant” to avoid it happening again.
Cousins went on to suggest meeting under the goalposts in January, surrounding himself in a plexiglass booth, and demanding bigger meeting rooms at the 40-acre TCO Performance Center. But it might not be enough to help the team with the lowest vaccination rate in the NFL.
Thankfully, I have some ideas.
First, let’s make Harrison Smith the NFL’s first bubble boy. By having Smith in a protective bubble that covers everything but his legs, he too can avoid becoming a close contact. There’s also the added benefit of avoiding a helmet-to-helmet hit that could result in a fine or suspension that would also take him away from the team.
Second, put Adam Thielen in his own plexiglass case with an opening for Cousins to drop the ball into. Viruses are too dumb to go over the top of barriers and it would be fun to watch replay officials squirm for 10 minutes deciding if a ball that lands at the bottom of the case is actually a catch.
Let’s not stop there! What if we gave the offensive line a sneeze shield at the line of scrimmage? This would allow Kirk to limit contact to his own team while also giving him protection against a lineup of pass rushers that may pose the same threat to his availability as the Delta variant.
All satire aside, if Mike Zimmer is serious about getting his team vaccinated, U.S. Bank Stadium might be the key. Perhaps the Bank, a publicly funded building, should require proof of vaccination for entry. First Avenue in Minneapolis has already taken this step and it would protect Cousins from Sven, who is also unvaccinated but feels it’s his God-given right to belt out the SKOL chant without a mask.
The topic of vaccinations is a real issue for the Vikings. While it is their choice to receive the vaccine, the NFL has decided to install a vaccine mandate without actually installing a vaccine mandate.
Last month, the NFL stated that games will not be rescheduled due to a COVID-19 outbreak and would result in a loss for the team. The NFL has also decided to hold franchises responsible for any financial losses due to canceled games, and that players on both teams would forfeit their salaries for that game.
Let’s say Cousins tests positive for a game with the Green Bay Packers, forcing it to be canceled. First, the Vikings would be giving up a critical game in the divisional and conference standings, hurting their chance at a playoff berth.
Then we go to the cost for the organization, which has to pay for all financial losses for that game. If it’s at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Wilfs have to pay for the family of four that shells out $450 just to attend a game in the nosebleeds. If it’s at Lambeau Field, they also have to account for NFL owner Cleatus Polanski from Appleton, who likes to slam a dozen $9 Miller Lites before kickoff.
But the Wilf family turning purple doesn’t affect the players directly until they don’t see their name at the bottom of their game checks. The penalty of not getting paid could be particularly damning toward the players who refused to renegotiate their contracts so the Vikings could stay under the salary cap.
With players like Smith and Danielle Hunter unwilling to accept team-friendly deals, the locker room might burst into flames when money isn’t flowing into their bank accounts. This, in turn, could affect the team’s performance on the field.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill took all of this into consideration when he admitted that he only received the vaccine because of the NFL’s protocols.
“I think it’s a personal decision for everyone,” Tannehill said via The Tennessean. “…But they are trying to force your hand and they ultimately have forced a lot of hands by the protocols, which is, everyone has their own opinions on it. So it is what it is.”
So why did Tannehill cave into the NFL’s demands?
“I love this game. I love this team,” he said. “I want to be able to compete and do the things that I think are important to build chemistry and win football games.”
This is something the Vikings haven’t realized and may not until it’s too late. It may be their preference to not receive the vaccine but as a wise former player Viking once said…